One of the big discussions right now in storytelling is about how political many stories, especially TV and comics, have been getting. I’m not talking about the behind the scenes stuff like diversity hires or anything. I’m talking about how some writers seem to be more motivated to discuss their sociopolitical beliefs than tell a superhero or sci-fi story. However, there’s a bit more to it than that, because as the defenders of this new wave of preaching over story have used as their defense, stories have had social and political messages for the longest time, even some we don’t realize because the message was a product of their time.
The difference is the good ones stand out on their own, so that years later when the message is meaningless a century later the story itself still entertains or maybe still informs in its own way. The more modern message tales are more a product of their time but goes out of their way to trash anyone who disagrees with them in the slightest or just wants to relax after a hard day at work and just enjoy a good story. The host of The Closer Look takes an unbiased look at the right and wrong way to explore a message without being a heavy-handed propaganda machine, even if you agree with that propaganda. Note that the host brings out the hard language at times.
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As one conservative-leaning writer pointed out in a recent commentary, a writer’s world view will always affect his or her story (myself included), be it politics or any other topic you could bring up from geek fandoms to sports fandoms. There is a point however where they’re demanding you hear their view and only their view and want to attack anyone who disagrees. In a similar vein writers will at times waste time in their story, if not the whole story, just attacking their critics. This happened with the mayor and his assistant in the 90s US take on Godzilla, which were slams of movie critics Siskel and Ebert, who gave negative reviews to Rowland Emmerick’s movies in the past. It’s happened recently as Teen Titans Go! has taken numerous shots at their critics who were fans of the previous Teen Titans cartoon series, a recent Harley Quinn issue that came up with the lamest slam on the Comicsgate movement (it wasn’t even funny on it’s own), and an episode of the new She-Ra that from what I hear takes shots at the original, which was actually part of the marketing of the new show.
These are people who don’t care about the story, only interested in making heavy-handed commentary. The best Star Trek episodes were the ones with more subtle messages while the worst ones had heavy-handed or poorly thought out messages. The best kids show episodes were the ones where the moral fits organically into the story while the worst ones hit you upside the head with the message, often a lame one that turned kids off because adults have forgotten what they were like as kids, but that’s another topic for another time. When your hero looks like a jerk or your villain is so blatantly “evil” that Skeletor is telling them to dial it back a bit you’ve gone too far. You can get your message across without alienating your audience, as the video demonstrates. A good story isn’t lacking in a writer’s perspective, it just isn’t drowning in it.